If you find yourself wondering where the next piece of work will come from, two things may be true about your marketing and business development efforts.
Your professional network is anemic; and you have a shortage of strategic targets.
Easy to say from the comfortable confines of a blog post, I know. But it is not, in my experience, a far fetched hypothesis. And here’s why.
Many have been led to believe that a quality work product combined with excellent client service will automatically result in a successful, practice. Capable and willing on both counts, optimistic professionals shop for the best place to plant a practice and proudly hang a shingle.
But left to build a practice in today’s marketplace, it doesn’t take long to realize that, contrary to the old saying, the possession of the greatest mousetrap in the world is no guarantee the market will beat a path to your door.
Combine competition and volatility with aspirations to serve a market that presumes expertise and quality, and an increasing number of professional service providers are left to wonder what it takes to differentiate, and become relevant.
And hoping the market will somehow find them.
Would that it were a mousetrap we were marketing.
We could shoot a video, create a slick brochure, and add some copy that focuses on effectiveness and efficiency. We could build a cool website, add some state-of-the-art SEO, and just sit back and wait for the phone to ring.
Or, if budget is a factor we could print some fliers and coax the neighborhood kids to slap them on car windshields in the supermarket parking lot.
Even if one assumes that is ever a workable strategy, the professional service we offer doesn’t come in a box. It can be difficult to quantify, and much of the time there’s not much tangible until a matter closes, a contract is signed or a case won.
Stop Waiting For The Market To Find You, And Take Business Development Into Your Own Hands
For everyone tired of waiting for the phone to ring, there is a much more productive and proven approach to business and practice development.
It begins with a focus on your network. Before you tune out, consider this.
The care and feeding of a strategic network is the key to developing a pipeline of biz dev opportunities.
How large does your network need to be? Ideally, large enough so that there will always be someone in your network in need of the service your provide.
A robust network — one you faithfully nurture — is key to eliminating those periods where the silence of the market can be deafening.
If this seems like a reach to you, think about the rainmakers you know. That thing you think of as an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time is, more likely than not, reflective of a robust network.
Where to begin if you don’t have this kind of pipeline? What to do next if you haven’t been working on your network?
There are no cookie-cutters; and specifics will depend in part on the stage of your career. But here are two ideas to consider.
1. View your business development efforts in two layers. Layer one (see Illustration above) is macro in nature, and focuses on growing a network. Begin with groups you’re already plugged into — alumni associations, civic clubs, servicei groups, professional affiliations, and churches are a few of the most common.
2. The second layer is where you become strategic, and begin to identify specific targets, and actually plan a proactive pursuit.
How do you choose your targets? That’s the subject of our next post.